Publishing is usually set up and split up
in so many different ways that it confuses people. The part that freaks everyone out the most is when
publishers talk about 200% of 100% of a song. That's really an old-fashioned and traditional way
to explain copyrights, songwriter royalties and publishing, and it hardly ever makes sense to anybody.
When a song is written, the
writer owns the entire copyright; all the publishing rights and the writer's share of those rights. Publishing usually refers to only
50% of the writer's royalty, which is known as the publisher's share.
If a songwriter signs a co-publishing deal, those rights will be shared equally with the publisher.
If a songwriter wants to hold onto the rights, they might want to simply sign an administration deal where the publisher merely takes care of business, including all of the paperwork, but usually does not share in all of the rights.
Whether you think of it as 200% or 100%, the bottom line is
the same, no matter what kind of a publishing deal you do. If you work with a publisher, you're going to share in the proceeds from
the song you wrote.
Publishers will help a songwriter exploit all of those rights in as many areas and mediums
as possible so that income can be made from the work.
However, there are different types of publishers based on their size and dominance in the market.
First, there are the major players, who are usually affiliated with record labels, like
Warner/Chappell, Universal Music, BMG and EMI. Then there are major affiliates, which are independent companies that work with a major
player in certain areas or territories, like Famous Music and Quincy Jones Publishing.
Lastly, of course, there are songwriters themselves who hold onto their
publishing and act as their own publishers. But, generally, that only works if they're so well established that people come to them
Also, a publisher with good connections can help a songwriter
hook-up with the right people and prevent them him/her getting lost in the shuffle.
First, there are mechanical royalties which is the money paid, usually by a record company, for the right to use a song on a record. A mechanical royalty is subject to a maximum statutory rate set by law (around 8 cents per song). It's customary, though, to discount the rate to around 75% of the maximum allowed, or about 6 cents per song.
Second, there are the public performance royalties that are
collected and administered by the Performing Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP and BMI. They grant licenses for radio, television,
tours and a few secondary areas. Many publishers also focus on synchronization licenses, which are used whenever music is combined
with a visual element-like in movies, television, videos and computer games.
Nowadays, there are also two other areas that can be fairly lucrative: they are
samples (when another artist uses a portion of a song) and karaoke use.
Songwriters are also more likely to get more attention at a mid-size or small publisher, but a large company has its benefits too. They'll usually offer a larger advance and have a wider network of contacts. Large companies can also use their weight to negotiate major deals. Artists should just be aware that publishers who handle major stars will usually work them harder because they produce the most income. Sometimes it's simply a personal choice and really boils down to whether or not a certain publisher can help an artist build their career.
About the Author
© 2002 Steven Hudis. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission